UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Embracing Change

Ushering in a new era of aviation with Gulf Air CEO, Kresimir Kucko

What Does The Future Hold For Gulf Air?

2018 represents the beginning of a new era for Gulf Air and for the Kingdom of Bahrain. In 2018 and beyond, Gulf Air will challenge the traditional definition of travel, broadening its scope and making it more convenient and appealing for every traveller. 2018 sees us start to welcome our highly anticipated incoming fleet of 39 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft. A total of 7 new aircraft, 5 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and 2 Airbus A320neo aircraft, will enter the airline’s fleet before the end of the year. With this development, major positive change is on the horizon. The fleet expansion will ensure we maintain one of the youngest fleets in the region while building upon our award-winning reliability, on time performance and product and service standards. Gulf Air’s new fleet will be outfitted with superior on-board products and services (some of the best in class seats, Inflight Entertainment and much more). With aspirations to be best in class across both our wide and narrow body fleet, Gulf Air’s new business class offering will compete with the first-class standard of other airlines while our economy class product will afford enhanced onboard comfort. Major network expansion will coincide with our new aircraft deliveries. Gulf Air will add eight new destinations to its network this year. In India, its current operations to Delhi, Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai, Trivandrum and Hyderabad, will be enhanced by flights to Bangalore and Calicut. We will also commence flights to the Saudi Arabian cities of Abha and Tubuk. This will expand our Saudi Arabia operations to complement our current service to Dammam, Riyadh, Madina Al Munawarah, Jeddah and Gassim. Gulf Air’s Cairo operations will be supplemented by direct flights to Alexandria and flights to Sharm El Shaikh. We will also launch operations to Baku in Azerbaijan and to Casablanca in Morocco. Alongside this, frequency changes to key routes in 2018 will enhance Gulf Air’s offering of seamless movement to and from the Kingdom of Bahrain – and across our network. Gulf Air will increase flights during the peak summer period by 200 more weekly flights compared to 2017. That’s not all of course, we recently rolled out our new brand identity. The new look and feel for Gulf Air, alongside our new fleet, new network, new products and services, represents the “Gulf Air of tomorrow”. The airline’s planned strategic growth in the years 2019-2023 will see us strengthening our regional base and then supplementing that with an expanded network that will reach various points across the globe. This includes: Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and, ultimately, North America. By 2023 Gulf Air’s reach will have expanded to over 60 destinations. It is time for change and we are embracing it.

What Makes The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner So Groundbreaking?

TThe addition of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to the Gulf Air fleet marks a historic moment for Gulf Air and the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is yet another important step in our strategic direction towards furthering our fleet’s modernisation process and strengthening our network and the overall passenger experience. The aircraft’s industry-leading technology boasts superior fuel efficiency, environmentally friendly operations and range flexibility that will facilitate our planned network expansion and fleet optimisation at a lower operating cost—it consumes around 20% less fuel and produces around 20% less emission than other aircraft types. Gulf Air’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will offer 282 seats in a two- class configuration, with 26 Falcon Gold Class seats and 256 Economy Class seats – a 32% increase in capacity on the airline’s previous wide body offering. Passengers will enjoy many improvements with the 787 family such as the largest windows of any jet, air that is cleaner, more humid and at a higher pressure for greater comfort, large overhead bins with room for everyone’s bags, soothing LED lighting and technology that senses and counters turbulence for a smoother ride. Our Falcon Gold cabin, in particular, offers superior comfort and business travelers can step out of long haul flights expecting to feel just as fresh as they would after a short one-hour flight

Gulf Air Has Been A Sponsor Of The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix Since Its First Season. Can You Tell Us More About This Partnership?

We are honoured to have been the Title Sponsor of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix ever since it made history as the first Formula 1 Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East in 2004. We are longstanding partners with the Formula 1 and by bringing the Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix to Bahrain year after year, we are propelling Bahrain onto the international stage. Gulf Air’s F1 partnership is key to the national carrier’s mission to further bolster the Kingdom’s economic development and promote Bahrain on a regional and global level. We are proud of our association with the Bahrain Grand Prix, as it was the first Formula One race in the region and a trailblazing event which paved the way for others. Over the past 14 years, this partnership has proven to be an excellent opportunity for exposure as it reaches over 380 million people around the world. This year, we used this platform to reveal our new Gulf Air livery and our new brand. Public reaction to witnessing the return of the Gulf Air fly pass at the Bahrain Grand Prix and to getting an early glimpse of one of our newest incoming aircraft has been overwhelmingly positive. As a key national infrastructure asset, Gulf Air connects Bahrain to the world serving as a powerful driver for the economy and supporting the Kingdom’s ongoing economic growth. We are always looking for opportunities to raise awareness of the many attractions Bahrain has to offer, facilitating travel to the Kingdom and giving visitors the chance to experience the trademark Arabian hospitality for which our national carrier is renowned. Accordingly, we constantly assess sponsorship opportunities in line with our mission to promote the Kingdom on a regional and global level and further bolster its economic development.

How Will Gulf Air Benefit From Bahrain International Airport’s Modernisation Programme?

Gulf Air is currently responsible for almost 70% of Bahrain International Airport traffic, a role we are proud of and hope to develop further over time. With plans, in 2018, to strategically develop our network with the addition of direct flights to eight new destinations, Bahrain International Airport’s expansion will mirror that of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s national carrier. That simultaneous growth and development bodes well for Bahrain’s national carrier and the Kingdom’s aviation, transport and tourism infrastructures and the industry as a whole. Bahrain International Airport is key to our operations, as Gulf Air’s hub. We truly believe it is one of the best airports in the region – the ease, efficiency and convenience of procedures within the airport make entry, exit and transit through Bahrain highly attractive. Bahrain International Airport’s expansion project and modernisation programme will better serve our passengers and we look forward to its completion. It will enhance the Kingdom’s accessibility to the world and support Gulf Air’s offering of seamless movement to and from Bahrain – and across our network. We anticipate it will be the fastest connection hub in the region if not the world. For an airline that operates double daily flights or more to select destinations across the GCC, MENA region, Indian Subcontinent and Europe, providing seamless connectivity for passengers travelling across our network is critical and we believe the efficiency that BIA boasts today will only be further enhanced in future. The new passenger terminal will deliver a superior travel experience for all, including transit passengers, who will get a taste of Bahraini hospitality and culture without even leaving the airport. If they do wish to explore the Kingdom, Gulf Air is offering 2- to 3-day stopover packages, which is one of the ways we support Bahrain’s tourism industry. Gulf Air is set to have a new 2,500 square metre lounge for our passengers in the new terminal, which will offer a comfortable environment for them to rest or catch up on work before a flight, and will of course feature our excellent F&B offering. Above all, the new terminal will offer seamless connectivity, which Gulf Air customers will no doubt appreciate. It will also enable us to accommodate a growing number of flights and passengers. We are grateful to our partners, Bahrain Airport Company, Bahrain Airport Services, and Bahrain Aviation Fueling Company (BAFCO), for their support.

What Was The Rationale Behind The New Branding?

As you know, 2018 is a year of change for Gulf Air as we embark upon a new era in our history. Our new Gulf Air brand is very elegant and befits the heritage of one of the region’s pioneering airlines. It reflects the change we are currently undergoing and our plans for the future – giving a promise to our valued customers of what the Gulf Air passenger experience is becoming as we strive to be the airline of choice with a global footprint and best in class. The falcon, which is symbolic of Gulf Air, has been redesigned with its wings wide-open embracing flight with all its power. The falcon is looking upwards and this is significant because it reflects our ambitions, determination and focus as we enter a new era for Gulf Air and Bahrain. The falcon is a symbol that connects beyond Gulf Air to Bahrain and the Middle East. It is a symbol of our heritage, courage, perseverance and freedom – something that Gulf Air embodies in its pristine service and beauty. This is an icon that defines and is ingrained in Gulf Air and Bahrain; it forms a key cornerstone of our brand both strategically and visually.

How Are You Settling In To Bahrain?

Bahrain is the fifth country I have lived in, and my first Middle East assignment, although I have been to the region many times on business. I am here with my family and it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for us all so far. We find the Bahraini people very friendly, and coming from Croatia, which is a small Mediterranean country similar to an island nation like Bahrain in many ways, we feel very much at home here.

How Do You Spend Your Spare Time?

Spare time is a luxury I rarely get, but when I do, I like to play rugby at the Bahrain Rugby Club. I also enjoy exploring Bahrain. So far, I have visited the Tree of Life among other tourist attractions. One of my favourite experiences was visiting Jarada island. I am sure I will get to experience Bahrain very well in the years to come.

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